SPECIAL REPORT The “Presidentiables” and Mindanao 2010-2016 (1): Their Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 April) — How do the Presidential aspirants view Mindanao? What will be the first thing they’d do for Mindanao when elected? What are their views on Mindanao issues such as the struggle of the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the National Democratic Front? How will they deal with the Abu Sayyaf? Warlords? Loose firerarms? Logging? Mining? Bananas?

Are they for Charter Change? Are they for amending the Constitution to find peace in Mindanao? Will they allow foreigners 100% ownership of lands as proposed by Speaker Prospero Nograles? Are they for the abrogation or review of the Visiting Forces Agreement?
Do they consider Election 2010 a watershed of sorts?

Not one of the “Presidentiables” is a Mindanawon but one of them — Nicanor Perlas — pursued his college education at the Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro.
In partnership with The Asia Foundation, MindaNews went around Mindanao to ask residents what kind of President they want and sought the Presidential aspirants last year to document on video their views on Mindanao issues.

From across Mindanao, residents want a President who would not just make promises but fulfill the promises; who knows how to deal with and help the poor; who will not be corrupt; is trustworthy; has a good character and is helpful; God-fearing, principled; has a vision for our future; and someone who can unite all the diverse peoples of Mindanao.

Ten Presidential aspirants were interviewed between August and September. Some of them had slid to the vice presidency by December 1, the last day of filing of certificates of candidacy (Loren Legarda and Bayani Fernando) or completely dropped out of the race (Chiz Escudero and Pampanga’s Ed Panlilio). Only the interviews of the six Presidential bets are included here. The other Presidential bets were either unavailable during the period of interview or had not made up their mind about running for the Presidency by then.

MindaNews traveled to Manila for Legarda, Escudero, Fernando, Nicanor Perlas, Richard Gordon, Manuel Villar; to Pampanga for Panlilio; caught up with Teodoro and Aquino on different dates in Davao City, and with Estrada in General Santos City, during a break from a movie shooting.

The video would have been launched in December but was reset due to the massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Each Presidential aspirant was asked the same set of questions, starting with the very basic “What is Mindanao for you?” and “What will be the first thing you would do for Mindanao if elected President.”

Some of their answers have not changed between then and now. Some have.

The video-docu has been shown in Cotabato City in coordination with the Oblate Media Center and Notre Dame University, in Malaybalay City in coordination with the UP Alumni Association Bukidnon Chapter, Central Mindanao Newswatch and Atong Press. In Valencia City, the audience was first asked who they were voting for before the video was shown. They were asked to vote again after watching the video. Some voters changed their candidates.

The video-documentary will be uploaded shortly in the MindaNews website to allow Mindanao voters to listen to the answers of the Presidential aspirants or ask follow up questions in the Presidential Forum, “Paminaw sa Mindanaw” (Listen to Mindanao) in Davao City on April 16. The forum is organized by nine organizations, among them, the Bishops-Ulama Conference.
The candidates’ answers appear in the alphabetical order of their family names. Senator Benigno Aquino, III; former President Joseph Estrada; Senator Richard Gordon; environmentalist Nicanor Perlas; former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and former Senate President Manuel Villar.

Question 1A: What is Mindanao for you?
Question 1B: What will be the first thing you’d do for Mindanao when elected President?

Aquino’s Mindanao:
What was said when I was younger. Di ba Mindanao as the Land of Promise… It still has all of the potentials, largely untapped. It presents parang opportunity to do everything right away. Let’s talk of the road networks for instance. On the way to Tagum yesterday, we had four lane highways with room for expansion as needed, immediately needed. You contrast it to Southern Luzon where even if you have the wherewithal to build an expanded highway, there seems to be no room without massive dislocations. And again, everything seems to be bigger and more when it comes to Mindanao. Something as simple as clams for instance, when you buy clams in Metro Manila they seem to be offspring, whereas here, they’re really full, large size etc. Again that’s the potential and the sad part is, it’s still remaining as potentials rather than actual boosts to the economy to the country etc, and that gives us all the opportunity to really have growth not only for Mindanao but for the rest of the country.

Aquino’s first step for Mindanao:

The first focus has to be on the peace aspect. Everything rides on the idea that there is an attainment of peace otherwise no intervention will workto any good. Look at education. Isn’t it a fact that it is in the ARMM that we have the lowest in terms of performances as far as the education factor is concerned. That’s a chicken and egg question. You have an economy that does not provide enough jobs for people who tend to opt out of the system and going to either rebellion, banditry etc…. I think the key to addressing it, is a sincere dialogue with all of the stakeholders without an agenda to begin with, agenda in the sense that ”this is my solution;” “this is the solution that will be implemented.” That, I think, starts off the process in a wrong way.

Estrada’s Mindanao:
Mindanao has a very good future for the country. Ang programa ko para sa Mindanao is to make Mindanao the food basket of the Philippines. Kaya ako, I’m very much concerned about Mindanao…. Noong 2001, yung budget in the history of our government, ang Mindanao ang pinakamalaking budget, mas malaki pa sa Luzon, Visayas kaya lang hindi nga natuloy dahil nga napilitan tayong bumaba.

Estrada’s first step for Mindanao:
Ang aking programa para sa Mindanao at naniniwala ako na hindi uunlad ang Mindanao, Mindanao can never move forward unless we get rid of these MILF and Abu Sayyaf. Dahil so many lives have been sacrificed, civilian, foreigners, soldiers marami nang namatay dito. Tatlumpung taon ng mahigit ang secessionist movement dito kaya hindi makaunlad-unlad itong Mindanao.

Gordon’s Mindanao:

Mindanao is a land that has not been maximized to its fullest. Mindanao is a land where you Put anything on its land it will grow. Mindanao can be the bread basket of the country.

Mindanao can be many things from tourism to mining to sustainable environmental development. So Mindanao should be giving more contribution to the national development. Right now it is totally stultified and practically dwarfed by perception of war, which is not really which is not exactly insoluble and insolvable. I think we can solve it.

Gordon’s first step for Mindanao:
What I’d like to do is always peace and order and unity first, and then a vision for Mindanao. I believe that you can win the peace in Mindanao. The perception that there is a war in Mindanao has been perpetrated by all out war policies like Pres. Estrada and total neglect by a government that is far away and that doesn’t seems to be focus on the real problem.

Perlas’ Mindanao:
Mindanao for me is a place which has been historically misunderstood as well a place which has not received its full due. I say that because I stayed for four years in Mindanao as a student of Xavier University College of Agriculture and I say that because after that graduation, I’ve been to Mindanao many times, helping with agriculture there, with the peace situation and so on. So I feel that Mindanao has been really misunderstood in a sense that the country owes a lot to Mindanao…. There’s a lot more of resources coming out for Mindanao than coming back to Mindanao. Mindanao is a net surplus contributor to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) than in terms of, f you now take back what comes back to its IRA (Internal Revenue Allocation) , then Mindanao is not receiving the kind of attention that it needs.

Perlas’ first step for Mindanao:
One of the first things that I would do for Mindanao is to restart the peace talks between the Muslims and the Christians. There was this Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which was in a sense attempted by the previous administration or the Arroyo administration and that seems to have had a certain amount of promise but there (were) some still unclarities in the specification and the process is flawed in the sense that there has not been a lot of consultations that were held on both sides.

So I think if there’s a broader range of consultation, the issue on the table make it easier to come to resolution of the peace process. I think Mindanao cannot, especially those affected by the conflict between Christians and Muslims, cannot really progress unless there is a solution to the conflict to the war in Mindanao.

Teodoro’s Mindanao:
Well Mindanao is many things .. right now in the immediate term, it means responsibilities and duties noh, first and foremost as Secretary of National Defense as my current concentration and other thing is seeing to it the we deal a swift and severe blow to the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and in Sulu. Another responsibility would be as chairman of the national disaster coordinating council where we have been experiencing the effect of climate-change very vividly in Mindanao now particularly in the Eastern portion and Central portion where flooding continues. Thirdly is as CORD of Region XII, one of the most dynamic regions and one of the most challenging too.

So right now, is a set of challenges. Why challenges? Because there is a golden opportunity at the end of these challenges.

Teodoro’s first step for Mindanao:
Number one is we hit the ground running because of the fact that current policies in the main particularly in the economy and in the infrastructure program shall continue. However on the security side, there will be an uncompromising stand against terrorism in all forms. And personally as a matter of experience, I believe in the process of dialogue, Bishop Ulama and the dialogues of all those who may have some grievances, but I will draw the line if when they bear arms against it. I think that it is a matter for stronger central government presence and enforcement. Which brings us to the question also of autonomy. I’m in favor of autonomy for those regions in the Philippines who can afford to run their affairs but not for the areas which need lots of national government’s stewardship financing and capacity building just because there are arms fighting for it.

Villar’s Mindanao:
Well, yung Mindanao parati nating sinasabi yan na Land of Promise… Pare-pareho naman ang sasabihin namin sa kalusugan, sa edukasyon, sa development, yung mga ganun. Pero ang mahalaga ay yung kakayahan namin, kasi sa tingin ko ay naiiwan na ang ating bayan sa progreso nitong nakaraang mga ilang dekada, naiiwan na tayo at dapat napapamahalaan ng maayos ang ating ekonomiya. Sa Mindanao, halimbawa, ang agrikultura ay isang napakahalagang industriya yan o napakahalaga nyan na pataasin o pasiglahin

Villar’s first step for Mindanao:
Sapagkat ang kailangan nito ay maagarang aksiyon kagad eh. Ang magiging pangulo kailangan unang araw pa lang alam na niya ang gagawin niya at kailangan nito sabay-sabay mong haharapin yung larangan ng agrikultura, yung larangan ng kalusugan, ng edukasyon at bibigyan mo ng focus, kasi yung parating nasa mind ko na Land of Promise ang Mindanao at alam ko na anuman ang aking sabihin ngayon ay pangako na naman na magiging kapareho lang ng iba pag wala kang nagawa.
Yung inprastraktura halimbawa kinakailangan maayos natin ang inpastraktura natin sa lugar na ‘yan. Sa eduksayon at agrikultura, hindi naman nagkakaiba eh, kasi ang aking programa, sa programang Entrepreneur and Agriculture o yung pag-i-encourage ng ating mga nagsasarili na lumaki at magkaroon ng tiwala sa kanilang sarili na mapautang sila at mas marami sa ating mga kababayan yung mag-isip din na kaya nila at magparami pa tayo… [Tomorrow: On the Peace Processes] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)